Today, for the first time in the UK, brain cancer patients are starting to receive treatment with Novalis Tx radiosurgery.
It is estimated that 150 brain tumour patients will benefit from this new brain tumour treatment in its first year of operation at the new £17m Clatterbridge Cancer Centre adjacent to the Walton Centre at Liverpool’s Aintree Hospital.
Much like Gamma Knife brain tumour treatment which already exists at a handful of locations across the country, this Novalis Tx radiosurgery gives the chance of a cure to those with otherwise inoperable brain tumours. It also offers the possibility to perform precise painless treatment to brain tumours in a single patient visit. Furthermore the technology enables clinicians to adopt an approach where they can ‘control’ brain tumours without risky invasive brain surgery.
Radiosurgery makes it possible for doctors to treat patients with tumours virtually anywhere in the body in just a single session. It combines a ‘sat nav’ like targeting system and powerful treatment beams to destroy cancerous cells and help to protect surrounding healthy tissue.
From what we gathered at the launch, this new technology at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre will be used to treat a range of brain tumours, including those that are metastatic. From what we gather it does not look like the Novalis Tx, or other radiosurgical devices can be used for the treatment of Glioblastoma at this point in time.
This is by no means a magic bullet.
Of the 120+ brain tumours that people can contract, you are most likely to have radiosurgery if you have an acoustic neuroma that is less than 3cm across. Radiosurgery can also be used for other brain tumours, including small secondary brain tumours, small pituitary adenomas. This brain tumour treatment is well suited to people who can’t have surgery due to other medical conditions and Haemangioblastomas that couldn’t be removed, were only partially removed, or came back after surgery.
Doctors also use this type of treatment for non cancerous conditions, such as ‘arteriovenous malformation’ (AVM).
It is also worth noting that specialists don’t recommend radiosurgery for larger brain tumours. It isn’t possible to get the same dose of radiotherapy throughout the treatment area with a large tumour.
Radiosurgery may also not be suitable if there are certain nerves running through the treatment area. The nerves could be given too much radiation. This could cause problems such as hearing loss, depending on the role of the affected nerves.
And our thoughts?
Well, the introduction of the Novalis Tx at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is more great news for brain tumour patients in the North West. To think that the wheels have been in motion on this long before the Government announced its additional investment into cancer treatment just shows the foresight of the Trusts, and that being able to act proactively and autonomously holds real benefits for patient outcomes. Naturally we feel that it’s a shame that every trust can’t push for novel brain cancer treatments, for which there is currently an unmet need in the UK.
However, with the snowballing uptake of this new technology we are hoping that brain tumour treatment and control of brain tumours with Novalis Tx, or indeed any other form of radiosurgery will be considered more readily for any patient in the UK for whom their doctor feels it is suitable.
Indeed, there is more good news on the horizon: Later this year Novalis Tx machines will become operational at two other specialist NHS cancer centres in Edinburgh and Manchester. This means stereotactic radiosurgery will be available, potentially, to brain tumour patients in nearly every major city in England and Scotland.